The Antidote To Regret: Fear Setting
Conquering fear and developing a bias for action.
This week, I ask you to carve out some time for a reflection practice called Fear Setting.
This exercise has had a profound impact on my life as it has for thousands of others, and will for you too.
Over the last two weeks, we discussed regret (Managing Regret For A Happy Life, Deathbed Decision Making) with the goal of living a fulfilling, exciting, and regret-free life.
Learning about principles, strategies, and stories surrounding regret is a great place to start but lacks the most essential ingredient of all: action.
Without action, ideas are worthless.
This practice, which can be repeated monthly or quarterly, was created by Tim Ferriss to force the necessary but often uncomfortable actions required to live the life we desire.
Conquering Fear = Defining Fear
"Named must be your fear before banish it you can."
― Master Yoda
Step 1: What are you putting off out of fear?
Often, what we fear doing most is what we most need to do.
The most important decisions you’re postponing probably fall into one of three buckets:
How you spend your time – Job and Activities
Who you spend it with – Life Partner, Family, and Friends
Where you spend it – Location
Think deeply about: 1) The person you want to be, and 2) The life you want to live.
Do your current priorities (how you spend your time) align with your vision for these?
If not, you’re putting off the critical actions that will get you there. Define what those actions are.
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
Step 2: Define your nightmare.
Rather than fearing unknown outcomes, define them.
What’s the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you defined in Step 1? Define the concerns, fears, and “what-ifs” that arise as you consider these actions.
What is the likelihood they actually happen?
If these horrible scenarios came true, what would be the impact on your life? Rank the impact on a scale of 1-10. Seven is not allowed – it’s a cop-out for comfortable mediocrity.
Would their impact be permanent or irreversible? If yes, are you sure?
Step 3: What steps could you take to repair the damage, even if temporarily?
If the worst-case scenarios you defined in step two materialized, how could you fix and even get things going your way again?
What steps would you take to get things back to how they were before?
If you were fired today, what actions would you take to ensure you’re financially stable?
Step 4: What are the outcomes or benefits, temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios?
How would you benefit or your life improve as a result of the more likely outcomes?
On a scale of 1-10, what would be the impact of those outcomes? Again, no sevens.
Could you produce at least a moderately good outcome?
Have less intelligent people pulled this off?
Step 5: What is it costing you—financially, emotionally, and physically—to postpone action?
Steps two and four measured the cost of action, but it’s equally important to measure the cost of inaction.
Most regrets are acts of omission – shots not taken, paths not wandered, and the unknown left unexplored.
If you don’t pursue what excites and fulfills you, where will you be in one, five, and ten years?
“How will you feel having allowed circumstance to impose itself upon you and having allowed ten more years of your finite life to pass doing what you know will not fulfill you?
If you telescope out 10 years and know with 100% certainty that it is a path of disappointment and regret, and if we define risk as “the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome,” inaction is the greatest risk of all.”
Step 6: Why are you waiting?
The notion of good timing is a myth we tell ourselves to delay the uncomfortable but critical actions we need to take. If you can’t answer this question without resorting to good timing or some other excuse, you’re afraid.
Realize the consequences of inaction, the repairability and unlikely probability of your nightmare coming true, and develop the habit that those who excel live by: a bias for action.
“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn't conspire against you, but it doesn't go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect.
"Someday" is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it's important to you and you want to do it "eventually," just do it and correct course along the way.”
And, as always, please give me feedback. What did you like or dislike? What do you want more or less of? Other suggestions? Please let me know. Just respond to this email, leave a comment, or Tweet me @jackrossdixon.
Have a wonderful tail end to your week.
P.S. Thanks to those who voted last week! As I love hearing your feedback, I’m going to start incorporating more polls and other ways to engage with you.